Space Blog | 19. October 2016 | posted by Bernadette Jung

How researchers use the latest Earth observation data – Part two

Elevation model of the mangrove forest region in the Sundarbans

In the second part of the series on the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Science Meeting in Oberpfaffenhofen, we present further applications for satellite data. This time, for example, biomass is determined with the help of 'Earth observers from space'. Up until Thursday, 20 October 2016, international scientists will use the congress to show their research results on satellite-based Earth observation and to exchange ideas.

High above the swamp

Wet, warm and salty – the perfect habitat for mangroves. These tropical trees only feel at home in seawater or the brackish water of rivers. Together with other water-loving plants and shrubs, they can spread across entire forests or swamps. They offer protection against land loss through coastal erosion along seaboards and act as buffers to block storm surges and tsunamis. Around the world, mangrove forests account for an expanse of roughly 150,000 square kilometres. This equates to an enormous quantity of biomass – plant constituents that act as natural carbon reservoirs and that influence the climate. But exactly how much biomass is stored in these forests? And what about the inaccessible areas? read more

Space Blog | 19. October 2016 | posted by Bernadette Jung

How researchers use the latest Earth observation data - Part one

KIOST inertial DEM

Researchers from across the globe are in Oberpfaffenhofen for the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Science Meeting. For four days, from 17 to 20 October 2016, they have the opportunity to present their results from the data acquired by the two Earth observation satellite missions and exchange information. Here, approximately 200 presentations give an overview of the latest research in satellite-based Earth observation. The radar data are used in various scientific fields, from climate research to geosciences to forestry, infrastructure planning and remote sensing methodology.

Covering the Science Meeting, the Space Blog presents some of the work presented. The short examples provided outline how the data of the German radar satellites support researchers worldwide. read more

Space Blog | 31. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

Back in saturated air at sea level

Source: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Into the tube: after the descent, all test subjects in the study were given an MRI scan to examine their brains.

The altitude sickness study conducted in the Valais Alps has delivered a sizeable yield: almost 1500 vials containing blood samples from the test subjects, frozen in dry ice at minus 80 degrees Celsius, were transported from the Margherita Hut at an altitude of 4554 metres back down to the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne. There are also just under 200 urine samples, 44 saliva samples and 66 blood counts. The test subjects themselves are also contributing 11 carefully kept 'journals', in which they noted the extent to which they felt symptoms of altitude sickness. Twenty-two measurements of the test subjects' blood pressure and another 22 revealing oxygen saturation levels in their blood are also included in the dataset. For investigator Ulrich Limper this means a detailed evaluation that will take over six months to complete.

Departure from the top station

The test subjects completed their morning ritual for the last time on Monday, 22 August: upon waking, they measured their blood pressure in a supine position and then hopped onto the scales. The investigator in the study drew blood one final time. And then, at 07:00, the first group set off across the glacier accompanied by a mountain guide, and headed for the cable car station in Punta Indren to travel from the vantage point at 1600 metres to the base of the valley. Meanwhile, the second group was busy packing the equipment left at the Margherita Hut: the ultrasound device, crates of samples tucked away in dry ice and luggage. Altogether, 600 kilograms had to be prepared for return transport by helicopter. read more

Space Blog | 26. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

Study routines with ice axe and crampon training

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Storing samples in the ice: first the test subjects use ice axes to create a shelf.

It is 04:00, and outside Margherita Hut the world is pitch black. The clocks of the test subjects in the altitude sickness study sound their alarms. As the first group of mountaineers leave their lodgings for climbing tours in the Valais Alps, the study participants are already busy delivering the first set of data: headaches, quality of sleep, nausea, dizziness. All of these are noted in a daily journal, graded on a scale according to severity. Then they reach for the blood pressure monitor and attach the clip that measures oxygen saturation in the blood to a fingertip. “We’ve all gotten used to it by now,” says DLR investigator Ulrich Limper. The same applies to the subsequent hop onto the scales. Each morning, test subjects record their bodyweight.

The first samples are collected at 04:30. The participants are asked to give blood, saliva and urine. When the samples are analysed at the DLR laboratory in Cologne, it will be important to determine whether protein molecules from the lungs have entered the bloodstream, and whether other protein molecules are present in the urine. These factors would indicate that the hypothesis of the study is accurate: when the body is exposed to reduced atmospheric pressure and a lack of oxygen, inflammation will form in the body that causes the blood vessels to become permeable, hence allowing fluid and proteins to seep from the vessels and into the surrounding tissue. read more

Space Blog | 24. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

When bad news is good news

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Even during the climb, it was apparent who was better suited to the altitude and thinner air.

Some of the test subjects are suffering. The diary of one female student participant records all that one would not want to have – massive headache, severe fatigue, nausea and vomiting, oedema – water retention – in the hands, insomnia. The first symptoms appeared during the climb, as the 10 test subjects first climbed from Alagna in Italy up to the Orestes Hut, and on to the Gnifetti Hut at an altitude of 3647 metres. On Tuesday it was finally time to climb to the final destination – the Regina Margherita Hut situated at an altitude of over 4500 metres.

For the participants with no – or only minor symptoms – of altitude sickness, it was a hike over the Lys Glacier with beautiful views; for the very sick, step by step, with crampons on their shoes and a five-kilogram pack on their backs, it was an arduous walk and anything but pleasurable. But, in this case, bad news is good news – DLR lead investigator Ulrich Limper needs to test subjects whose bodies are reacting to the lower air pressure and lack of oxygen. read more

Space Blog | 15. July 2016 | posted by Christian Grimm

Half-time for MASCOT – half the journey is completed

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The MASCOT spare Flight Unit (FS) during further testing in Bremen

On 3 December 2014, the French-German MASCOT asteroid lander was launched with its carrier probe Hayabusa2 from Tanegashima, an island about 40 kilometres south of the Japanese mainland. With MASCOT halfway to its destination, we look back on all that has happened since the launch.

At the beginning of 2015, MASCOT's spare flight unit, the so-called Flight Spare (FS), was refurbished and made ready. On Earth, this identical 'twin' of the asteroid lander serves as a reference system for the flight unit, the Flight Model (FM). The spare unit underwent the same qualification tests as the flight model and can also be used for advanced unit tests that were no longer possible for the FM due to scheduling constraints. These additional tests mainly focused on getting the best possible performance out of the system and on precisely calibrating the parameters required for the landing in October 2018. To achieve this, the scientific instruments on MASCOT performed a series of measurements. read more

Space Blog | 04. July 2016

BIROS to Earth…

Das BIROS-Team im Deutschen-Raumfahrt-Kontrollzentrum (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The BIROS team in the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen

It only took around 15 minutes for BIROS, the small remote sensing satellite, to report back to us for the first time after the successful launch of the Indian PSLV-C34 (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket on 22 June 2016. Prior to this, the microsatellite had separated from the rocket at precisely 507 kilometres.

This initial contact during a flyover above the O’Higgins Station operated by the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) in Antarctica was a minor surprise, as it was not entirely certain whether this first connection would be successful. We had firmly expected an initial contact during the flyover above Inuvik Station in North Canada approximately one hour after take-off. But plenty of things had to come together to make this initial contact work: firstly, separation from the rocket had to be precise; secondly, the satellite passed over the ground station at a very flat angle, making the duration of possible contact quite short. So this fleeting sign of life was simply the icing on the cake for our team at the German Space Operations Center (GSOC). BIROS had arrived safe and sound! read more

Space Blog | 22. June 2016 | posted by Julia Heil | 2 Comments


Credit: ISRO
On 22 June 2016, the microsatellite BIROS took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India on board a PSLV launcher (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle).

It was finally time: after another postponement of the deadline, the fire detection satellite BIROS (Bi-spectral Infrared Optical System) took off on 22 June 2016.

All of the collectively crossed fingers helped: here is a look back at the days that preceded the launch.
Although a part of the DLR team had already set off on their homeward journey to Germany, systems engineer Christian Schultz, project coordinator Matthias Hetscher, design engineer Matthias Lieder and software engineer Stefan Trippler remained on site in India to accompany the microsatellite in its final preparations. Schultz set off for Germany shortly before the launch to take his place at the control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen. read more

Space Blog | 09. June 2016 | posted by Julia Heil

BIROS – A small satellite on the move

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Upon its arrival, the BIROS microsatellite had to be removed from its transportation crate

Forty degrees Celsius and approximately 60 percent humidity – these are the weather conditions outside. That is why the BIROS team is happy to work in the cool cleanrooms of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in India for most of the day. They are working out here, as the launch date for the BIROS (Bispectral InfraRed Optical System) microsatellite is drawing near. It is due to be launched from the SDSC on the island of Sriharikota on the south coast of India on 22 June 2016. BIROS and its partner satellite TET-1 (Technologie-Erprobungsträger 1; Technology Experiment Carrier 1) will then orbit Earth at an altitude of 500 kilometres, from where they will each use two infrared cameras to keep an eye on forest fires and other high-temperature events. A great deal of work and coordination effort will have been carried out before BIROS can start its work in space – 10 DLR institutes have been working for three years on preparing the satellites for their mission.

From Adlershof to India

The group of scientists from the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems reached the Indian city of Chennai on 10 May. At that point, BIROS was already at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, some 80 kilometres away, after having been picked up from Berlin-Adlershof on 4 May. The buzzing metropolis of Chennai awaited the scientists and engineers. In 2014, the city was the sixth largest in India with 4.9 million inhabitants – and it is still growing. read more